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Chirica chosen to lead ladies

Unicoi County High School’s newest addition to the athletic scene has kept busy this summer.
The school system recently named Milligan graduate Bettina Chirica as the inaugural coach for the girls’ soccer team. Chirica received the keys to the program after spending last season as a coach with the University High Lady Bucs.
Victor Chirica, Bettina’s father, is part of his daughter’s staff for the upcoming year.
“For the first two months, the head coach at University High competed in this bike across America,” Chirica said during practice on Friday, July 10. “Even though on paper I was an assistant, I worked as a head coach. During that time we played a couple of teams, and one of those teams was Happy Valley. The coach over there recently started the program and he gave my name to (UCHS athletic director) Michael Smith and told him if I decided not to coach at University High anymore that I’d be interested in a position.”
It is an exciting time for the team, Chirica said. While players are learning the fundamentals, the approach in the preseason has been solid. The first-ever Lady Blue Devils’ soccer team is comprised of Alexandra Reynoso, Teresa Ramirez, Fernanda Murillo, Dolores Meza, Daniela Martinez, Ruth Diaz, Jailene Garcia, Diana Dueñas, Paula Contreras, Elena Crozco, Clarissa Mendoza, Fernanda Ruiz-Yin, Citlali Llamas, Jillian Taylor, Brooke Rose and Alex Hernandez.
“It has been really good,” she said. “The majority of the girls haven’t played soccer in their life, so we’ve been working on the basic skills. It can be difficult because by the time you’re in high school, you should have those basic fundamentals down, but what I really like about this team is their attitude. They’re willing to learn new things and they’re very enthusiastic. As a coach, to work with a team like this is just really great. I enjoy coming out here and I love the area.”
Chirica established herself as one of the most-decorated athletes to come from the area during her playing career, including an opportunity with the Tennessee Olympic Development Program (ODP) team and was as a four-year starter for Milligan College.
“I started playing forever ago,” Chirica said. “Prior to Milligan, one of my biggest accomplishments was making the state ODP team. Basically you try out and if you get selected, you represent the state of Tennessee and you play against other states. If you do well there, they select you to the regional pool, then to the national pool. If you watch the World Cup, all those girls at some point played ODP.
“In high school, I set a couple of records including the most goals scored in a career and prior to University School, I was at Science Hill and we went to the state tournament, so that was a huge accomplishment, too.”
The learning experience at Milligan was an aid to the coaching aspect, Bettina added.
“I learned so much,” she said. “Even outside of soccer – to be a selfless player and that it isn’t all about yourself. It was a great experience playing at the college level, doing all that traveling and it definitely taught me how to balance soccer and life and how to really be a student-athlete.”
The Lady Blue Devils will operate under an away-only schedule this year and open the season on Aug. 17 at Sullivan South. For more of a look ahead at the upcoming season, be sure to check out a future issue of The Erwin Record.